Dec 13 2012

Review: Xiaomi Mi-2

The smartphone community has been mesmerized by a Chinese newcomer Xiaomi and its latest high-end Android phone, the Mi-2. Packed with an amazing set of newest hardware and priced about the half of its better-known counterparts it has quickly become a daydream of technocrats around the globe. In this review I will write sections as I use the phone more and test different aspects of it. I welcome you to visit the review later on to see more qualities of it covered.

What is Xiaomi?


Xiaomi was established in 2010 as an Internet company focusing on the research and development of high-end smart phones. Its founder and CEO, Lei Jun, dresses like Steve Jobs did, wearing blue jeans and a black shirt. However, Xiaomi has even more Apple-like qualities. Its fans are fanatic – some take the day off from work when Xiaomi releases its newest product so that they could get it among the first. They have also successfully built up demand through exclusivity and scarcity. Unlike the large Chinese manufacturers, like Lenovo, ZTE and Huawei that co-operate with the carriers and sell massive quantities, Xiaomi sells “small” amounts online. Mi Phone, the Mi-2 predecessor, tallied $2 billion sales in a year. As Lei put it: “We’re not a company that chases sales volume. We chase customer satisfaction. We look for ways to give the customer a great surprise.” Xiaomi has also introduced Xiaomi Box, a $48 AirPlay-compliant Apple TV competitor.1, 2, 3

Xiaomi priced the Mi-2 really competitively in the beginning, giving it a $300 price tag. Once they realized that there was an immense demand for it and they supposedly had difficulties to deliver it, they decided to increase its price to $400. Even so, it is way cheaper than its rivals, for example Samsung Galaxy SIII and iPhone 5.

Specs

The full Mi-2 specifications can be found on the Internet but here is a list of the most relevant, in my opinion.

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset
  • 1.5 GHz quad-core Krait processor
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 4.3″ 1280×720 IPS touchscreen made by Sharp (342 ppi)
  • 8 MP camera sensor with a wide-angle (27mm) and large aperture (2.0) lens
  • 8 MP stills @ 8fps
  • 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 90fps
  • 2 MP front camera
  • MIUI open source UI layer on top of Android

Unboxing


The box is made out of ecological non-bleached carton and it gives an impression of an exquisite product. The contents are nicely and tightly packed. Besides the phone itself, there are an electricity plug, USB cable, 2,000 mAh battery, a quick installation/setup guide and a warranty leaflet. The quick setup guide and the warranty leaflet are in Chinese.

Chassis

The Mi-2 chassis is really solid, sturdy and well built. My concern was that it would feel cheap and it would squeak and rattle when used. No such qualities whatsoever. The back cover is really tight, it was even difficult to get it open for inserting the SIM card and the battery. Notice that the Mi-2 has a regular size SIM card slot unlike many others in the same generation, such as Samsung Galaxy SIII and iPhone 5. Also, there is no memory card slot so you need to manage with the onboard memory (16/32 GB, depending on the model). As savo pointed out in the comments, the front is not covered with Gorilla Glass but rather a full Dragontrail glass. The back has a glossy finish and it is up to you if it looks like cheap or expensive. I found it rather pleasing.

The physical dimensions are less than I expected. In the photo below, the Mi-2 is between Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy SIII. And its size is also in-between. I have small hands so I am very pleased with it and it can be operated with one hand.

Size Comparison Between Galaxy S & Galaxy SIII

I have (accidentally) dropped the phone four five times to the floor and it has survived all of them perfectly. One fall was from the weist-height to stone floor and the phone slided face down on the stone. Luckily there were no scratches at all! No matter how carefully and gently I try to handle my mobile phones, I always end up dropping them multiple times to the ground/floor.

Dragontrail vs. Gorilla Glass

Gorilla Glass
Xiaomi does not use the de-facto standard display cover, Gorilla Glass, made by the American company Corning. Instead, they have chosen Dragontrail, a super strong and scratch resistant glass made by Japanese Asashi Glass Company. Gorilla Glass was first used in the original iPhone which was launched in 2007 and has since been used in over 280 products, according to Ticonderoga Securities. Apple, Nokia, Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola are among the manufacturers who have relied on Gorilla Glass.

Dragontrail
Dragontrail is an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet glass that gives great strength and thinness. According to Asashi Glass Company 1 mm thick glass bears 60 kg (132 lbs) of weight. In my opinion it is very pleasant to use, very slick and smooth. And it looks great. You can take a look at Dragontrail’s strength and scratch resistance in the videos below.




Initial Setup

When you first boot the device it will greet you in Chinese. Luckily you may choose English as a UI language. Next is the setup of a Xiaomi Account which you can skip. Then it asks about your data plan and the reset day that can be handy if you have a moderate data limit. Other services option covers enabling location services and joining the user experience program. Finally it thanks you and greets you with the home screen.

Welcome Screen

Welcome Screen (English)

Xiaomi Account Setup

Data Traffic Protection

Other Services

Setup Complete

Home Screen

The first thing you want to do is to install Google Play. It is prohibited in China and therefore missing from all the Chinese Androids. Just hit the magnifier and type “Play” and it will appear in the top search results.

Market

Google Play

I was worried about the keyboard layout that default to Chinese. Fortunately as Mi-2 is an Android device it supports all kinds of keyboard layouts. You can change it in Settings → System → Language & input → Keyboard & Input Methods → Default. Just select a layout of your choice and mark it as default.

Verifying Authenticity

There are reports of fake Mi-2’s being sold so the very first thing for me was to make sure I have the real deal in my hands.

AnTuTu Benchmark

AnTuTu Benchmark Leader Board Bar Chart

GLBenchmark

Geekbench

The free AnTuTu Benchmark has Mi-2 as a clear champion of the newest smartphones. CNET Asia recently tested Mi-2‘s graphic abilities against HTC One X+ and Samsung Galaxy SIII using the free GLBenchmark. They got 2851 frames yielding 25 fps while the competition got 18 and 15 fps respectively. I was surprised when I tested mine: it gave me a staggering 4517 frames @ 40 fps. I don’t know what happened there. The third benchmark software I tried was Geekbench which cost a dollar. Geekbench 2 gave my Mi-2 a score of 1887. That tops the averages of iPhone 5 and Galaxy SIII. I am pretty convinced that I am holding a genuine piece of art.

Where to Buy?

As you may well know it is really difficult to find a Mi-2 you could buy. There were over three million pre-orders of it and they released just a 50,000 batch in the beginning leaving the smartphone community starving. I was lucky enough to find a reliable seller on eBay and he delivered my one Mi-2 in three weeks from ordering. And one week of the three was wasted by Fedex when my package travelled across Europe. You can also try to find one in FastCardTech or Merimobiles.

Camera

Please see the Xiaomi Mi-2 Camera Review.

Battery Life

The Mi-2 comes with a 2,000 mAh battery. Based on my two-month usage, the battery lasts a day, even with heavy usage. The battery can not be charged 100% full with any USB port on a computer or an older micro-USB charger. My desktop computer or old Nokia chargers do not provide enough current so the battery level will remain at 93%, no matter how long will you keep it connected. My MacBook Air evidently provides more amps to the USB ports because it will always charge the battery 100% full.

Here is an example of my normal day. I unplugged my phone from the charger at 06am. I made phone calls during the day for about 1,5 hours worth. The screenshots are taken at 10pm when there was 37% of battery remaining, I did not charge it during the day.

Factory Software

MIUI Market

MIUI Market


Mi-2 comes with some Chinese apps pre-installed. Xiaomi/Mi/MIUI Market is a Chinese equivalent of Google Play, however you can find some Western software there too. Unfortunately Mi Market has some (outdated) pirated versions of paid apps that may include spyware/malware so although you may be tempted to install some paid apps from there for free, my advice is that stay away from Mi Market, you’ll never know what infection you’ll get in the process. MiTalk is an instant messaging solution that you can install to other Android phones via Google Play and to iPhones via App Store. I have not personally tried it because virtually all of my friends now have either Facebook Messenger or Google Talk installed on their smartphones. Notes is a Post-It™ type app where you can write various notes to yourself. It is integrated with the call recorder so while you are talking and recording the conversation, you may simultaneously type notes related to that call. You can also set a timed alarm and attach photos or contact cards to the notes. It can be very handy.

Game Center

Game Center

Data Usage

Data Usage

The Weather app that comes pre-installed looks really good but unfortunately it supports only Chinese cities. The Game Center has a vast amount of games available, literally thousands of games. I assume if not all, the majority of them are free. However, they all seem to be in Chinese so they are no good unless you can read and understand Chinese. Data Usage is a built-in traffic monitor where you can set your data plan and the start date for your billing cycle when cumulative data transfer figures are reset.

Instant Torch

Instant Torch

Dialing

Dialing

Voice Recorder

Voice Recorder


One of the MIUI features that I absolutely love is the instant Torch. You don’t have to unlock the phone and tap on a torch app but instead just grab your phone, activate the screen (by pressing power button) and long-press the Home button and the flashlight will be lit immediately! It is so handy and I have used it a lot.


Another really handy built-in application is the voice recorder, you may even record phone calls with it! Unlike the other apps, this does not beep annoyingly and constantly in the background but is perfectly silent during the call. The call record list is neatly organized by dates and recipients’ names. You don’t have to decide if you would like to record a phone conversation before you dial but in the phone call screen (see above) you can easily access the record button with two taps. In addition to recording phone calls you may also use it for dictation to be later revisited or transcribing the dictation.

The included Baidu Map app is a China and Chinese only so it is of no good outside China. Another Chinese only app is I’m QQ 2012 communication suite. It is sort of like Skype and there is also “international edition” available, although I don’t know if anyone outside China uses it. Built-in is also a popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo which is a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. It was launched in 2009 and as of late 2012 had over 500 million registered users. There are also Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus software that I have not used. The Anti-Virus software comes from a partner company Tencent. Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun was Tencent’s CEO before founding Xiaomi. Voice Assistant is similar to Apple’s Siri but unfortunately it understands only Chinese. For cloud backup there is built-in support for KuaiPan in the file browser. There is 15 GB space for backups but I have not personally tried it.

MIUI

MIUI is a custom user interface layer on top of Android, originally developed by Xiaomi and recently by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. MIUI is closed-source and is still heavily endorsed by Xiaomi. The official MIUI website is here and the unofficial UK-based fan website here.

Long-press to exit apps. Long-press Home to clean up memory.

music player, themes

Updating MIUI

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free

Cons

– No memory card slot
– GPS fix can take time
– Skype voice calls do not work
– Some texts are not translated to English
– Email is sent twice

Summary

To Be Continued…

 

31 Responses to “Review: Xiaomi Mi-2”

  • ngapap Says:

    Thank you for your review..
    Can u do more review about xiaomi mi2..
    About the os, camera, video etc..
    Can u send me sample picture and video taken by Mi2 to my email..
    Sorry im not a native english speaker..

    • arinium Says:

      Hi,

      Yes, I will write more and more to this review once I have the time to test all the aspects of the phone. As a matter of fact, the camera was the main reason I bought the Mi-2 so I will definitely cover it in great detail. I got the phone four days ago, so there will be more tests later.

  • Mert Says:

    Thanks for this extensive review, very well written. Hoping on receiving my MI-2 somewhere next week. Cheers

  • savo Says:

    Nice review! just one fact. The Mi2 have a Dragontrail glass not Gorilla glass. you can see the video demostration made it by ibuygou.com is clearly a big diference

    • arinium Says:

      Hi savo,

      Thanks for the heads-up! I have now done some research about Dragontrail and I have updated my review.

      • savo Says:

        Hi, Thank you for great review! Notice in your camera test, you don’t have any pictures with sun; perhaps i can help you with some pictures with sunny weather. Where i live is sunny almost all the year.

  • Johnny Says:

    The Google Play do not work in my Xiaomi mi2!!

  • ubelai Says:

    Wow, those are some pretty awesome battery results.
    What Rom are you using? I’m currently using the dev 3.2.1.

  • Sunny Says:

    Thanks for your great job of writing this review.Very specific with clear details.

  • takkis Says:

    Does Finnish 3G connections work with this phone? I’m more interested of more widely used 900mHz frequency?

  • yzip Says:

    Can VIBER or apps from android market be installed?

  • yzip Says:

    How do I transfer the messages from HTC Desire S to xiaomi 2s. Thanks in advance.

  • light elf Says:

    This is interesting do you could have anymore details.

  • electronics Says:

    Wow this site was so helpful with electronics!

  • Nuno Arsenio (Portugal) Says:

    hello
    i am realy interested in this phone mi2s upgrade, please tell me if you are using this phone since the review and after 8 months you still have a good opinion or you suggesting any other product for same money.
    thank you for your review it helps alot.

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Nuno,

      I have been using indeed the Mi-2 now for 9 months and I am very, very satisfied with it. The thing I am most impressed is that there is a MIUI software update released every Friday! During these 9 months my Mi-2 has received many tweaks and new features and it has never crashed/stalled that would have required me to remove the battery like in many Samsung Android phones.

      In my opinion Xiaomi Mi-2S is the best option today but please wait at least until September 5th, 2013 because Xiaomi will have their product conference then. Maybe they will announce Mi-3 or something new and exciting…

  • Nuno Arsenio (Portugal) Says:

    Hello Ari.
    thanks for your reply, yes i will wait for the news, but as i have read has 5 inch screen what for me is too big and not too much comfortable to fit in your pocket. other reason is the price 275€ is my limit to spend on a phone.
    best regards have a nice weekend
    Nuno

  • [new hot music|hot music video|hotmusic song|hot tracks music|hot music hits|hot music lyrics|music hot this] Says:

    Great article once again! Thank you;)

  • Htc One X Tricks Says:

    absolutely such as your web page however, you need to confirm the transliteration about numerous of one’s posts. Many of options filled with spelling troubles we to discover it incredibly worrisome to know the truth however Let me absolutely go back all over again.

  • Ajsal u j Says:

    Hey Ari ,
    I ordered mi2s from aliexpress after reading the review. And now am waiting for the product. But when I came to know that fake phones being sold even on aliexpress , am a bit scared by now. Can you help me to check whether mine is genuine or fake. Phone has to arrive with in 4 days

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Ajsal,

      I was also worried about fake Xiaomis so I ran performance tests for it and compared the scores to known values. Another thing you could do is to check the hardware components for example with 3DMark to see that it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset and 2 GB of RAM. A fake would likely have a MediaTek chipset and 1 GB of RAM.

  • Ajsal u j Says:

    Dear Ari,
    Unfortunately mi2 isn’t available now and seller just refunded the amount. So I tried mi3 which is available in india through flipkart.com but do to huge demand couldn’t get. At last I end up ordering Asus zenfone 5 through Flipkart and waiting for delivery, seems like a good budget phone, hope you have already came to know about it.

Leave a Reply